Can CBD Be Used to Treat Coronavirus?
Over the past several months, a whiplash-inducing array of possible remedies have been proposed for combating the coronavirus that’s wreaking havoc around the world. Some of these have a valid scientific basis, while others are just downright loony and even dangerous. There is a potential treatment for one of the most dangerous symptoms, however, that’s showing a lot of promise, though the research has not yet received widespread attention.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and, of course, Covid-19.
It’s important to understand that Covid-19, a “novel” or new strain of coronavirus, affects people in different ways. Some infected people never develop symptoms, or may experience only mild effects. According to the CDC, these are typically younger people or people who’ve been exposed to smaller “loads” of the virus. But even asymptomatic carriers can pass the virus on to others who are at higher risk for more serious complications.
One of those complications is called ARDS, or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. It’s a type of respiratory failure that can cause life-threatening lung inflammation, characterized by shortness of breath and rapid breathing. Fluid ultimately prevents the lungs from filling with air, and organs do not get the oxygen they need. Patients with ARDS generally find themselves in the intensive care unit of the hospital and require oxygen or intubation in order to breathe; they frequently do not survive, and those who do may experience lasting lung damage.
The immune system event that triggers ARDS is called a “cytokine storm,” a result of overproduction of cytokines, proteins secreted by cells in the immune system. Researchers at Augusta University in Georgia recently looked into whether CBD could be used to mitigate this immune response. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, including how the compound interacts with cannabinoid receptors and other components of the endocannabinoid system, have previously been well established in scientific studies. And because the endocannabinoid system modulates immune cells in our lymphatic tissues, including cytokines, the Augusta researchers targeted cytokines to see if the inflammation of these may be controlled with the use of CBD.
While this study was conducted on mice, the results were nevertheless encouraging. The authors reported that they were able to control the inflammatory response in the mice and return them to near-normal levels. They concluded that “the anti-inflammatory function of CBD may reduce cytokine storm and mitigate the effects of exaggerated inflammation . . . considering all potential regulatory effects of CBD as well as the vast distribution of endocannabinoid system in the body, it is plausible that CBD may be used as a therapeutic candidate in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions including COVID-19 and other virus-induced ARDS.” (Forbes, July 15, 2020).
In a recent article published by Frontiers in Pharmacology, the British Journal of Pharmacology, and the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, three more studies—also conducted on mice—showed that all of the lab mice who were injected with an ARDS-producing agent and subsequently treated with an injection of THC, survived.
The study’s author, Mitzi Nagarkatti, has recommended that health officials begin human trials with a THC treatment as soon as possible. But Nagarkatti also cautions that this does not mean that people should start smoking marijuana to treat coronavirus. This can be quite dangerous, she says, as THC suppresses the immune response and smoking it can make the symptoms worse.
We will update this article as more information becomes available.